Cardiff City v Leeds United - ‘Everyone is against us,’ says Elland Road star

BORN in Stoke-on-Trent, raised in Bolton and privately educated in Massachusetts, Jack Harrison has quickly grown to appreciate that as far as Leeds United are concerned, it is them against the world.

After some eclectic footballing experiences in the States and at Manchester City, Harrison has found home at Elland Road where the innovation and enlightenment of working under Marcelo Bielsa has taken his career onto the next level.

The Argentine may have presided over a style makeover at Leeds, whose football has been a sight to behold for the best part of two seasons, but Harrison –despite only being 23 – is wise to the notion that some things will never change when talk turns to Leeds among rival supporters.

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Seemingly since time immemorial, Leeds have had their detractors – from Manchester to London, Huddersfield to Sheffield and Derby to Nottingham.

Jack Harrison: Ready to complete the job. Picture: Bruce Rollinson

Several other clubs, towns and cities have also taken delight in the Whites’ vicissitudes over the years – including many followers of the side whom Leeds face tomorrow in Cardiff City.

The new normal will ensure that the Cardiff City Stadium will be deserted for United’s lunch-time return to action.

There will be no baying for English – and more specifically Leeds – blood from the local hordes and the contrast between the bear-pit, febrile atmosphere of the Bluebirds’ former Ninian Park home and the eerie feeling of football at a soulless, empty arena will be stark and surreal.

But rest assured that in the homes of Cardiff supporters across the Principality, the fervent desire to see their side do well will be spiced by the sight of Leeds as their opponents. Twas ever thus.

Return meeting: Jack Harrison is challenged by Cardiff's Lee Peltier at Elland Road. Picture: Simon Hulme

If any club currently have any empathy with Leeds, it is Liverpool.

They are another footballing institution who are tantalisingly positioned in their own quest for glory, albeit at the top of the Premier League.

Silencing the doubters would provide an element of sweetness for both Leeds and Liverpool.

Achieving success in a style which cannot be argued with by pure football lovers regardless of colours would bestow the ultimate sense of well-being.

Leeds United coach Marcelo Bielsa: Praised by Jack Harrison. Picture: PA

Harrison observed: “I feel like everyone is against Leeds.

“I’ve always said if this was to happen to anyone, it would definitely be Liverpool and Leeds.

“The way people are and the feeling they have towards Leeds, it only makes it better for us if we do it the right way.

“We have that opportunity, we have to make the most of it.”

Memories of last season and those mocking cries of ‘Leeds are falling apart’, most famously and cuttingly delivered by Derby County supporters following victory on that crazy play-off night at Elland Road last May are something that Harrison and his team-mates have had to take on the chin and live with.

The chant has been given an airing by rival fans whenever Leeds have ever suffered a wobble over the past few seasons and it was doing the rounds in early new year after the Whites went on an alarming run of four defeats in five matches.

Bielsa’s limited command of the English language will ensure that the song has passed him by, although he has never been one for outside distractions or background noise anyway.

With his exemplary, decorated coaching career, why would he?

His players will know what the song is about, but will also be mindful that they are firmly in control of their own destiny.

Harrison added: “We have to take it with a pinch of salt. Everyone is going to talk and say all these things.

“If we just concentrate on what we’re doing, (then) if we don’t take the opportunity it can only be our fault.

“We’re doing everything we can to make that Premier League dream possible. We all want it.

“We know people will be talking about Marcelo and all that stuff, but he’s a smart man, I’m sure he doesn’t take too many of those things to heart.

“He has a reputation around the world. Everyone respects him, some of the best managers in the world have said great things about him.

“I don’t think he should be worried about some people saying he’s a ‘bottle’ job or whatever.

“It’s all down to us as a club and how we manage these next nine games. He knows how to do it, it’s down to us to get the job done.”

For any Leeds player, handling expectation is part of the job, even if it is magnified by the wonderful position that the club find themselves in.

If the more quantifiable elements of fitness, work rate, metres covered and football excellence are anything to, then Leeds are well stocked to achieve their goal in 2019-20.

The theory goes that the best teams work the hardest and there has been ample evidence of that this season from Leeds, whose intensity levels from the start of games have been a consistently stand-out feature during the Bielsa revolution.

Speaking ahead of what is in effect a ‘mini-season’, Harrison added: “One of the biggest things and reasons behind that is how fit we are as a team.

“Marcelo’s methodology and ethos revolves around that – doing more on the pitch than any other team.

“We’ve been following his way of training and we’re more than prepared. We always start off the season quite strong.”

Specifically on the concept of expectation, he continued: “Each player is thinking about it, but it’s something we have to manage as a team.

“It is nine finals. We must try not to think of the end result too much, we can’t let that affect us. We have an opportunity in front of us. We know what we have to do.

“If we concentrate on what we can control and play the way we know we can and prevent as many mistakes as possible, we’re prepared to face any team.”

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